Rare Solar Storm to Illuminate Skies: Northern Lights Forecasted as Far South as Alabama

A significant solar storm is set to illuminate the skies with breathtaking northern lights this Friday, as forecasts indicate the rare appearance of auroras as far south as Alabama in the United States.

The Space Weather Prediction Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), on Thursday announced the possibility of severe geomagnetic storms and remarkable aurora displays over Earth from Friday evening through the weekend. This is the first time that the agency has issued a severe geomagnetic storm watch since 2005.

“We have a rare event on our hands,” commented Shawn Dahl, service coordinator for the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. “We’re a little worried. We haven’t seen anything like this for a long time.”

The impending solar storm, resulting from a series of solar flares and explosions emanating from the Sun, has the potential to disrupt communications, power grids and satellites in space on Earth. Satellite and grid operators have been alerted to deal with possible disturbances.

Northern Lights Forecasted as Far South as Alabama

Anticipated Arrival: Solar Storm Timing and Northern Lights(Aurora)Viewing Tips-

The forecast shows the storm could arrive by 8 p.m. ET on Friday, however, Dahl cautioned about uncertainty in timing due to the vast distance between the Sun and Earth. To enhance the understanding and measurement of the solar wind, forecasters will rely on data from a NASA spacecraft called Advanced Structure Explorer.

The spectacular northern lights, scientifically known as the Aurora Borealis, result from charged particles emitted by the Sun during solar storms. These particles collide with Earth’s magnetic field and interact with atoms and molecules in the atmosphere, creating colorful scenes in the night sky. While usually visible at higher latitudes, intense solar activity can extend the aurora to more southern locations.

Northern Lights Forecasted as Far South as Alabama

Auroras could be visible “as far south as Alabama and northern California” on Friday night, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center. The agency recommends viewing them from dark locations away from city lights, and in some southern regions, smartphones can capture images that human eyes can’t see.

The solar storm originated from multiple “moderate to strong” solar flares detected since Wednesday morning, each of which spewed clouds of plasma and charged particles into space. The center has identified at least five flares and associated coronal mass ejections directed at Earth, which could potentially escalate geomagnetic storm conditions by the weekend.

Northern Lights Forecasted as Far South as Alabama

Historically, severe geomagnetic storms have caused disruptions, such as the 1989 event in Montreal, Canada, where 6 million people lost power for nine hours, and the 2002 event where a coronal mass ejection knocked out 38 commercial Satellites were disabled.

The Sun undergoes an 11-year cycle of activity, with the current cycle predicted to peak in July 2025. As solar activity increases, skywatchers are eagerly anticipating the awe-inspiring astronomical spectacle this weekend.


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